Bill Tyler wears many hats: writer, advertising extraordinaire, professor, mentor and, now, hall-of-famer. Last month, the long-time advertising guru turned Saint Louis University professor was officially inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame for his outstanding work in the field of advertising.
“I guess I’ve been around for so long, they looked and said with sympathy, ‘Is he still around? Maybe we ought to do something,’” Tyler joked.
Tyler originally studied English and journalism at University of Missouri and discovered advertising in the process. The work was appealing to someone who found himself always writing and drawing in his spare time.
After working as the advertising manager for a small daily newspaper, Tyler headed back to Mizzou and taught advertising courses while he pursued his master’s degree. Upon graduating, he landed his first agency job as a junior copywriter at D’Arcy Advertising in St. Louis.
Making ads and taking names
What followed was what Tyler describes as a “30-year hiatus from teaching.” Within three years of working at D’Arcy, he became a vice president and copy director. Throughout the succeeding years, Tyler held executive positions within large and small agencies alike.
He worked all over the country, managing accounts for well-known names like Pizza Hut and meeting all sorts of people along the way.
“I got to teach Ed McMahon how to pour a beer,” Tyler recalled with a laugh.
Eventually, after moving back to St. Louis, Tyler started a business of his own: TYLERtoo Productions LLC., in which he did freelance advertising work.
At the time, Tyler was teaching advertising courses as an adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis. It was during that time that he heard of an opportunity at SLU to work as an interim advertising professor.
From advertising professional to professor
While SLU conducted a national search for a new advertising professor, Tyler spent his time as interim professor in a tiny office adjacent to the furnace room. The door would stick and it was a challenge for two people to sit down comfortably in the office, but the ever-optimistic Tyler still laughs and describes the time as fun. In the end, SLU offered him the full-time position.
“So they did a national search and they found me down in the furnace room,” Tyler joked.
What was enticing enough to convince Tyler to trade opportunities to meet people like McMahon and Johnny Carson to spend his days teaching noticeably less-famous 20-somethings at SLU? Tyler’s answer was succinct: “You guys. The students.”
Ask Tyler about his students and he will start going through the dozens of photos of past students hanging on the walls of his office, identifying some from up to 20 years ago by name and recalling detailed memories of their time at SLU and what they’re doing now. He still keeps in touch with a number of them through Facebook, and others come and visit his classes from time to time.
“It’s great to see the development of students in a course and over a course of time…You become very close,” Tyler said.
Role model and mentor
It’s clear that Tyler’s fondness for his students is reciprocated. Students preparing for the National Student Advertising Competition in his upper-level course had nothing but positive things to say about their professor.
“I think he’s a good blend of someone who understands the industry and understands students and really wants for you to succeed…It’s refreshing,” senior Claire Williams said.
Andrew Rose, also a senior, said Tyler’s introductory advertising course influenced him so much that he decided to change his major from psychology to advertising.
Mary Hoglund, who Tyler describes as the group’s “resident smile,” summed up Tyler’s teaching style: “It’s just so fun to work with him. He doesn’t make it seem like you’re the student and he’s the teacher, it’s more like you’re working with each other…He’s probably the best teacher I’ll ever have at SLU.”
Tyler has a number of role models, as well, and loves to quote William Bernbach and Leo Burnett. But to put it simply, Tyler lives by a slogan from one of his favorite advertising campaigns by Nissan: “Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.”
“It’s been a good ride,” Tyler said. “I’ve enjoyed the ride and I’m still enjoying it.”